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Even Coupled, You Can Still Die Alone June 16, 2010

Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought.
Tags: , ,

This is a follow-up post to Lisa’s piece about the importance of support networks in old age. We’ve all heard the stereotype that if you’re single, you risk dying “alone” in a small apartment and being eaten by your pets. I just wanted to point out that even if you are happily married after almost forty years, you can still die alone.

My parents have been married for thirty-seven years and still love each others’ company. They enjoy relatively good health and we’re a fortunate family all around. That said, recently on my first day back home for vacation, my mom fell off the attic stairs and broke her knee in quite a dramatic fashion. She couldn’t even sit up, the pain was so nauseating and intense. I was there to call 911 and, per the operator’s instructions, shut Charlie the cat in the bathroom where he wouldn’t be underfoot for the paramedics (or eat my mom).

I considered it a pretty good vacation, despite sitting through two surgeries, cleaning scabs off four rods coming out of my mom’s leg, refilling ice packs every few hours and, in one dramatic post-surgical moment, tripping over the IV line and spilling a dish of vomit all over the floor.  Things could have been worse. If I hadn’t chosen that particular week to schedule my vacation, my mom might have lain on the floor of the hallway for hours or days, until someone came in the house and, in her words, “Hit me in the head with the front door”. If she had hurt her her back, or anything more than her knee, who knows if she would have even survived long enough to get whacked in the head.

“But she’s married!” Someone stupid might say. “Married for 37 years! That virtually guarantees that she can’t die in that manner!” The problem was, my parents each have (gasp!) their own lives, and my dad was away on a three-month business trip overseas. We’re lucky that we live next door to two of my uncles, but they aren’t always around either, as they too have their own lives. And thank goodness for that.


Photo credit: Usonian


1. Jenn - June 16, 2010

I swear, this is the kind of story that makes me obsess about carrying my cell phone ON MY PERSON at all times (seriously, I even leave it within arms reach when I’m in the shower). There have been many times when I have thought that it would be entirely possible for me to fall or otherwise hurt myself and not be able to get to a phone, and it could be days before anyone thought to check on me. Now that I’m in a committed relationship, I at least think it would only be days before someone found me, rather than weeks, but from what I’ve learned on CSI, it doesn’t seem to take that long to bleed to death… So glad you’re mom’s OK!

Onely - June 29, 2010

Thanks Jenn! I don’t really use my cell phone and keep it in the car “for emergencies” but you know, an emergency can happen in the shower too. . .

2. Nicole - June 16, 2010

These are great points, Christina! How lucky for your mom you were there (although sorry she had to go through that — ouch!!)

Onely - June 29, 2010

Thanks Nicole!! = ) Talk soon!

3. April - June 21, 2010

I recently saw a story on the news about one of those “pathetic” single men who died in his apartment with no one knowing. It’s like day care stories; the media just has to sensationalize the times where what they assume are our worst fears are actualized. Still, just in my own little circle, I know of plenty of married people that have died alone. We just don’t hear those stories, of course.
(BTW, just realized I’m on your blog roll. I’m very honored, thank you!)

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